As the 2019 deer season approaches, we continue our look back at the most unbelievable buck of all-time — the stunning Luke Brewster world record non-typical whitetail arrowed on Nov. 2, 2018 in eastern Illinois.
The buck — dubbed Mufasa by those who hunted him — rocked the deer hunting world in the fall of 2018 as the news broke and photos began to surface on social media of a buck that was so big that it almost didn’t look real. But as a story featured in the Spring 2019 issue of North American Whitetail would eventually show, it was indeed very real. Not to mention, it was a feel-good hunting tale the likes of which the deer-hunting world has rarely seen.
In part one of our online series, we revisited the start of the amazing tale of the Brewster Buck, looking back at the humble beginnings of a bowhunter who would eventually become something of a deer-hunting rock star. We also briefly mentioned the unbelievable numbers produced by the Brewster Buck in the last few months after the Virginia bowhunter arrowed the monarch of a Midwestern whitetail last fall. Initially receiving a 60-day net entry score of 320 5/8 inches earlier this year in January, that figure was announced exclusively by North American Whitetail editor Gordon Whittington and associate editor Haynes Shelton at the 2019 ATA Show in Louisville. As eye-popping as that number actually was, the figures on Mufasa would actually get bigger as time went on. In fact, after panel scoring by Pope and Young Club and Boone and Crockett Club measurers on March 1, 2019 in Omaha, Neb., the final numbers on Mufasa were upped even more to a staggering 337 1/8 inches gross and 327 7/8 inches net. Those massive numbers stunned the deer hunting community and put Luke Brewster’s buck into world-record territory and then some.
But the numerical journey to that top rung of the deer hunting ladder is only one part of the story’s many layers. Like the humble bowhunter detailed in our first story in this four-part series, the whitetail that Brewster would eventually tag was also a bit on the humble side when it first appeared in a rather innocuous trail-camera image several years ago.
While it seems odd to describe history’s best buck as ever being ordinary, the truth is that Mufasa didn’t seem that much different than any of the other good whitetails that roam through the uplands and woods of eastern Illinois each fall.
But as the bowhunting brotherhood of Brewster and his Illinois pals Brent Cearlock, Justin Cearlock and Ron Waggoner developed, the group’s opinion of Mufasa would evolve with the first yearly glimpses each fall of the buck’s ghostly image appearing on SD cards.
“I think it was Justin who came up with that name (Mufasa) maybe four years ago,” said Brewster as he thought back about the buck’s history. “We’ve got five years worth of trail cameras pictures, but we had never had an encounter with him until last year (2017). Last October around Halloween (in 2017), he came into where Justin was sitting. He got a shot opportunity, but the arrow ricocheted off a tree branch and he missed. Mufasa didn’t jump or bolt, I guess because he must have thought it was just a branch falling in the woods. But Justin was devastated by that miss.”
In some ways, this is where the story of Brewster and his successful encounter with Mufasa takes a bit of a surprising twist. Because the buck that history will remember — and one that upended the record books earlier this year — was a much different whitetail than he had been in previous autumn seasons.
“He was a typical with a kicker point back in 2016, but he was definitely a good-sized buck that year,” laughed Brewster. “But last year (in 2017), he definitely became a shooter.”
And then some. Mufasa made the transition from a solid typical buck into a potential Boone and Crockett class non-typical scoring possibly as high as the low 200s.
“We don’t have any trail camera pictures of him in velvet since he always popped up in late October or early November after the local crops had been harvested,” said Brewster. “But two years ago, he dropped his antlers early and we figured that he might have gotten injured somehow or maybe even hit by a car. Last year (in 2017), he started turning into this big non-typical. We were really excited when we started getting pictures of him last year.”
But that excitement pales when compared to the buzz that was generated within the group when the first trail cam photos of last fall’s season were secured in late October 2018.
Put simply, the transformation of Mufasa from a record-book contender into history’s greatest buck was stunning, leaving the group almost speechless as the images tumbled forth in a group text.
“I remember being at work and it was Ron, I think, who sent out some pictures in a group text,” said Brewster. “I turned my phone off and started laughing because I was thinking ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way he grew all of that!’ I eventually told a couple of my coworkers, showed them the pictures, and said ‘You’re not going to believe this.’”
In fact, almost no one could. But the buck and his world-class rack were very real, tantalizing the group of four bowhunters as November approached.
So much so that after helping his pregnant wife pass out Halloween candy to neighborhood kids on Oct. 31, Brewster found his pickup truck loaded and headed west in the early hours of Nov. 1.
“The weather on my drive was good at first, but the closer I got, it started pouring rain,” he said. “I was pretty happy about that because I knew the bucks would be coming around and freshening up scrapes with the peak of the rut approaching. Plus, it would be quieter for me getting into the woods. It’s about a 10-hour drive from my home in Virginia to the farm in Illinois and the whole way I was thinking about him, strategizing for the situations I might encounter and fantasizing in my head about getting to put my hands on him. But to be truthful, I probably would have shot any mature deer that came in since I’m so young in my bowhunting career.”
After rolling into town and getting situated at the home of family friends that he stays with on his Illinois' adventures, Brewster met up with Justin to catch up, talk about hunting plans over the next several days, and to make sure that his license was all in order.
“He made sure that I was good to go, that I had my tags, that everything was legal and legit, just in case I got a shot at the buck,” said Brewster.
If he had only known what was about to happen the next day, Brewster might not have slept a wink that night as he laid his head on the pillow and began to dream as only bowhunters can the night before a much-anticipated deer hunt.
Because little did the bowhunter know that the ghostly apparition of a giant non-typical buck nicknamed Mufasa was about to step into the spotlight on center stage — and with Brewster waiting quietly in the wings in a tree up above.